Killing Midianites?!

Photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash

Friends, during this slow summer season, I like to bring you interesting perspectives on our Torah readings from sources that might not be familiar to you.
This week Parsha Mattot-Maasei contains some very difficult passages about the Israelites being commanded to kill the Midianites.
When the Israelites go to battle, they kill all the Midianite males as well as their 5 kings and they also kill Balaam, the prophet who was supposed to curse the Israelites but instead ended up blessing them.
In addition to the intriguing commentary from Marcus Freed below, I offer you this thought:
When you start a fight, any fight, there is always collateral damage.
Sometimes it's other innocent people who get hurt.
Sometimes it's you who gets hurt.
Sometimes it's people who were just trying to do the best they can in between two warring factions (like Balaam the prophet between the Moabites/Midianites and the Israelites).
I'm sure no one at the outset of the Vietnam War thought they'd be hearing "We had to destroy the town to save it."
But it's not surprising if you see my initial point above: When you start a fight, any fight...
Yes, I can make a difference regarding global conflict when I exercise my right to vote and lobby my elected officials. But I'm one voice among thousands, if not millions.
Where can I make a DEFINITIVE difference?
In my life and local community when I exercise my own ability to be reflective about my actions and speech.
Remember Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live making fun of President George Bush, Sr. with his "it wouldn't be prudent" "gotta be prudent" remarks?
I long for those days....and for the prudence that once was.
Psalm 34:13 Who is the person who is eager for life and desires years of good fortune? Guard your tongue...Seek peace and pursue it!
SEEK PEACE! Try as hard as possible to find the Tzelem Elohim - the essential humanity in every person.
Try to be patient and model the behavior you hope from them in yourself (if you have a teenager, read this twice!)
Try to identify your stress points, your own triggers, when you are ready to fight, so that you can honestly assess where you might be adding to your own pain and troubles and where they truly exist independently of you.
So here's the commentary of Marcus Freed, yogi and yeshivah bocher (intriguing combination!).


I have been watching some violent TV. Not the final series of Downton Abbey, but the first series of Vikings.
At times this stuff can seem fairly un-spiritual. Then I looked more closely: the Viking warriors are almost continually talking about their gods, serving a higher power and following destiny.
Then I looked at the Ancient Hebrews: 'They mounted an attack against Midian, as God had commanded Moses, and they killed every male' (Numbers 31:7).
Now, many teachers will dismiss the Biblical violence as irrelevant in today's world, but perhaps it is more relevant than ever.
The Kabbalah explains that the word 'Midian' comes from 'Madon' meaning 'strife' or 'argument'.
Based on this, we can absolutely start killing the male Midianites, right here and now:
Today's 'Midianites' are our thoughts and impulses that create strife and arguments.
The 'male' thoughts, e.g. the ones that give seed, that push themselves out into the world, the ones that start fights... these are the ones we can maim, destroy and kill.
And replace with Love.
There is a reason that the Bible has so much war in it, and why the Bhagavad Gita begins on a battlefield.
Our war is an internal one, to beat out negativity, and banish strife and pain from our life.
Go & whip those Midianites.

Shabbat Shalom!